Populations of birds that catch insects on the wing (avian aerial insectivores) have been declining for decades, and conservation actions must be put into place if we want to halt and reverse this trend. Bank swallows – a species with intrinsic value that provides immense mosquito control – is facing the fastest population decline for a species in Canada, with an estimated 98% population loss in Canada over a 40-year period. With only 2% of the population remaining in Canada, this species deserves urgent conservation action. Similarly, barn swallows have had an overall population decline of 76% over a recent 40-year period.
Before implementing on the ground conservation actions for at-risk swallows, we needed to conduct inventories to determine the most important nesting locations for bank and barn swallows in the Columbia Valley. Hence the Columbia Valley Swallow Project (CVSP) was initiated in 2020, and volunteer citizen-scientists were trained and involved with monitoring. This year we located 135 swallow nest sites in cliff faces from Canal Flats to Donald, including 96 active bank swallow colonies. A high number of clustered bank swallow colonies were discovered in the area between Canal Flats to Edgewater, indicating that this region provides critical breeding habitat for bank swallows. The CVSP also identified two large barn swallow colonies, both of which are under threat due to nest removal and/or future decommissioning of buildings. Breeding locations and nest monitoring information is currently being used to inform the management of important swallow habitats and contributes to federal recovery processes. In 2021, we aim to implement the 5-year Upper Columbia Swallow Habitat Enhancement Project, which includes erecting large artificial nesting structures.
To learn more about this swallow conservation initiative, including how you can get involved, please check out this new short video that was created by the Kootenay Conservation Program for this project.
And for more information on what we are doing, check out the Columbia Valley Swallow Project website.